Photo by: Colin Kerrigan

Two dead and 23 injured after car ploughs into crowd at SXSW

Two people have died and 23 have been injured after a car ploughed into a crowd of pedestrians at SXSW in Austin, Texas, last night.

The crash happened at 12.30am local time after the driver tried to speed away from a drink driving checkpoint.

The driver, who was arrested at the scene after being Tasered, hit a number of pedestrians as well as a male and female adult on a moped, who were both killed.

Five of the victims are in a critical condition, while the others are described as ‘walking wounded’. Most of the victims were pedestrians.

The site of the crash, Red River Street, is home to several venues and bars taking part in SXSW, including Mohawk and Cheer Up Charlies. Tyler, The Creator was due to play Mohawk at 1am but the show was cancelled following the incident, and the venues will remain closed for most of today,

Austin’s Chief of Police, Art Acevedo, has asked witnesses to contact the police department. “There is only one person responsible for this and that’s the person who had no respect for the sanctity of live,” he told the press. “From our perspective, he needs to go to jail.”

Update: You can now watch the police report of last night’s incident here:

According to APD Chief Art Acevedo, “The suspect faces two counts of capital murder, which in the state of Texas is the highest offense you can charge someone with. He also faces multiple accounts of aggravated assault with a vehicle. The vehicle was used as a weapon and he will be charged for those crimes… He is a male black adult.” [via]

It’s emerged today that one of the deceased was an Austin woman riding a moped along with another man – he’s in critical condition. The second person who died was a man from the Netherlands who was riding a bicycle. 

Update 13/03:  

The deceased male has been named as Steven Craenmehr, aged 35. A tribute has been posted by his workplace, MassiveMusic.

Eight people remain in the hospital. Two are still in critical condition and three are receiving treatment or surgery. [via]

A statement from SXSW reads as follows:

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the tragic accident that took place last night here in Austin.

We appreciate and commend the first responders, as well as the city agencies who so quickly sprung into action.

We will be making schedule and venue changes for programming in the surrounding area of last night’s events. All other programming will continue as previously scheduled.

While a statement from SXSW’s Managing Director, Roland Swenson, reads as follows:

 The SXSW staff is stunned and deeply moved by the events of last night.

Dozens of us were on the scene when the incident occurred and we worked closely with APD to create a perimeter around the area, turning back all the visitors spilling out of the clubs who headed north on Red River Street.

To avoid confusion we plan to carry on with our scheduled daytime events at the Austin Convention Center in order to serve our tens of thousands of participants during this tragic time.

All of the SXSW staff and volunteers reported for their regular duties this morning and will continue working today on the event.

We are contacting all of the venues to find out if they have made any decisions about their operations that might impact our visitors.

Despite all of our preparations for dealing with a major incident during SXSW, nothing could really prepare us for how this feels. As much as we would like to just go home and spend time absorbing the shock of this horrific event, we feel our best use is to continue to operate today.

One of the fatalities was a SXSW registrant, a gentleman from the Netherlands. Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured and with the families of the fatalities.

Update 14/03:

The driver has been identified as 21-year-old Rashad Charjuan Owens of Killeen, Texas. He has been charged with two counts of capital murder and multiple counts of aggravated assault with a motor vehicle.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, Owens had been due to perform at an East Austin venue that evening. His brother, Lamar Wilson, said he last saw Owens on Wednesday evening before his show at Club 1808 near 12th and Chicon streets. Owens, whose stage name is KillingAllBeatz or K.A.B254, was the father of six young children, one of whom lives in Alaska, Wilson said.

Owens has previously been arrested several times in Fairbanks, Alaska for misdemeanors including “offenses for minor under the influence and criminal trespass.” An active warrant is out for him in Alaska.

The second deceased person has been named as Austin resident Jamie Ranae West. The 27-year-old was riding on the back of a moped driven by her husband, Evan West, who is currently still in the hospital.

The names of all of the injured can be read here.

SXSW has set up a fund, SXSW Cares, to provide support to the victims – head here to donate.

Meanwhile, the Blood Center of Central Texas is urgently asking for blood donations.

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